The Law Society of Western Australia has joined with the Law Council of Australia and other Australian Law Societies and Bar Associations to officially launch the Legal Aid Matters campaign.
Australia’s legal aid system is in crisis, with justice being denied to thousands of Australians each year who cannot afford access to a lawyer. Hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts by successive Federal Governments have crippled the legal aid safety net, causing vital services to shut down and putting intolerable pressure on State funded services.
Law Society President Elizabeth Needham said, “The legal aid crisis is ruining lives. Australians are being forced to represent themselves in court. Women trying to escape domestic violence are being cross-examined by abusive partners, without a lawyer to aid them. Young men and women are facing imprisonment without any legal representation.
“The legal aid crisis strikes at the heart of the notion that Australia is a fair, egalitarian nation. What kind of society do we want to live in? One in which everyone has access to justice – or only those who can afford a lawyer?”
“It is short-sighted of successive governments to fail to address this funding crisis as it only results in increased costs to the tax payer and in fact the whole community; whether that be by lengthier court proceedings, more people in jail or going to in court in the first place when the provision of sound legal advice or social work assistance from, for example a Community Legal Centre, might have avoided the need for legal proceedings at all.”
The Legal Aid Matters campaign calls on the next Federal Government to:
- Increase the Commonwealth’s share of Legal Aid Commission funding to 50 percent with the States and Territories. This would amount to an additional $126 million.
- Immediately provide $120 million to cover civil legal assistance, with the States and Territories contributing $80 million, for a total of $200 million – as recommended by the Productivity Commission.
- Immediately reverse the 2014 Commonwealth funding cuts to Community Legal Centres ($12.1 million) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services ($4.5 million) to take effect from July 2017.
Please visit legalaidmatters.org.au to learn more about the legal aid crisis, sign a petition, and even directly contact your local MP.
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